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Re: <nettime> [talk given at tulipomania dotcom]
t byfield on Wed, 14 Jun 2000 20:17:16 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> [talk given at tulipomania dotcom]


mwark {AT} laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au (Wed 06/14/00 at 12:42 PM +1000):

>    you are extrapolating wildly here. I never said anything about
> exlusion or charging students more. You're just making stuff up
> there. 

i don't think so. as to charging students more, you wrote:

    I had an amazing argument on the cultstud-l list once about the practice
    of giving photocopies of stuff out to students free. (Academics are the
    original Luther Blissetts in this regard). What it means is that by
    giving stuff away free, creators are denied income (along with
    publishers), which means the authors don't get paid, and can't leave
    their day jobs. The publishers raise the threshhold of what is a viable
    publication. The students get free stuff they don't have to pay for,
    but then graduate into a (non)market where they can't sell their
    textual worth because of the same practice. A classic viscous circle.

and you wrote this in the context of an argument about the
pedagogical dimension of a 'class' reproducing itself, and
argued that the stage in this vicious circle that ought to
be reformed is the stage within the realm of academics' re-
sponsibility, the class-sabotage of distributing the fruit
of intellectual labors for free: 

   So what you have is a world in which everyone is dependent on
   teaching for their income, or on day jobs. So you end up teaching
   people how to become slaves to the same system.  Dependent on the
   universities for jobs, due to the lack of an alternative market
   for one's skills. A market that would actually exist if copyright
   was protected.

as to exclusion: though you spoke of a 'class' that repro-
duces itself, your proposed reform makes clear that you'd
install economic barriers to entry to this 'class.' 

> You might notice there's a lot of universities that treat their
> student accomodation or even their parking lots as 'profit centres',
> and charge students accordingly. But they're happy for the
> intellectual property of their staff to be given away free. More
> autonomy for intellectual workers, less price guaging by the
> rentiers of the plant and equipment, i say.

this transformation of services that were simply de rigeur
into potential 'profit centers'--thereby affirming the sys-
tem of valuation wherein various services that fail to per-
form accordingly become losses--was a central point in dav-
id mandl's (really good) talk as the tulipomania conf. but 
talking about which systems or services turn a profit or a
loss assumes that social institutions should be thought to
as 'bundles' of 'modules' to be broken apart--with one eye
(at least) on making them more 'efficient.' 

if greater efficiency meant charging people LESS for FEWER
things, that would be great, but it rarely does. this case
is no exception: you point at parking lots and say 'that's
the model, let's charge for texts too so that intellectual
laborers can become rentiers on an equal footing with land
owners.' this is certainly fashionable, but--imo--it's the
devil's work. and it's a kissing cousin of the kind of non-
sense ICANN and WIPO are hell-bent on installing: a regime
in which all things 'intellectual' are condominiumized and
the very act of speaking involves obtaining permissions or
paying royalties. 

and this is precisely where you miss the boat, imo. the ac-
ademic model of free distribution for contingent use is an
excellent model that OTHERS SHOULD ADOPT. their refusal to
do so is, of course, the basis for their economic strength
relative to academics: land owners charge, academics don't,
land owners get rich, academics don't, land owners achieve
power, academics don't. 

> Of course its just not the case that all students are poor downtrodden
> sods with no capacity to pay. many will have lifetime earnings far
> above their teachers. Scholarships and loans can level the field and
> create inclusion. If you're charging those who can afford it, you can
> subsidise those who can't. A mixed economy, in other words.

it's possible to 'mix' an economy without accelerating its
velocity; one could, for example, *decrease* it by freeing
'services' for common or cooperative use. 

and it's noteworthy that you should mention students' life-
time earnings, because that's what's *really* going on now,
isn't it? all these people lusting over the boundless rich-
es of the future and cooking up ways to exploit them *now*.
'hey, they're young! they've got all the time in the world 
to make up the diff--let's *rationalize* all these systems 
now by charging them more.'

> Inclusion in what? This is crucial thing here. Inclusion in a situation
> where institutions, be they universities or publishers or museums get
> to accumulate intellectual property and generate revenue from it at
> the expense of the direct producer.

and this you would reform by charging the 'end-user'?! par-
don me for asking, but are you really naive enough to hope
that these institutions wouldn't thank you very kindly for
all your efforts on their behalf then scoop up your wonder-
ful new 'revenue stream'? if so, make sure to patent it as
a 'business model'--otherwise all those awful thieves will
steal your idea. 

inlcusion in what? i guess i'd say we've come to a fork in 
the road. you seem to think that rationalizing the results
of mental labor is the path to financial autonomy. i don't
think it is.

> The alternative? More autonomy for direct producers, so there is something
> to include people in. Something that provides income for intellectual
> work based on a limited but defensible property right.

maybe financial 'autonomy,' but autonomy takes other forms
that are a little closer to what i regard as the true mean-
ing of the word. what you're arguing for--a more extensive
penetration of economistic-juridical frameworks throughout
social discourse--is antithetical to autonomy. and i don't
AT ALL subscribe to some warm-fuzzy belief that 'the realm
of the mind' is some paradise of freedom; but i don't need
to believe in such rubbish to recognize the threat present-
ed by those who would become the rentier class of thinking
and speaking.

cheers,
t
-

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